Google Freshness (also called “QDF Algorithm”) is an algorithm by Google that has been introduced to show up-to-date, up-to-minute, and sometimes even up-to-second information in the search results.
This fascinating algorithmic approach has given many opportunities to drive traffic and exposure to such websites and news portals.
If your website is not new or has gained a reasonable amount of traction (in terms of Google rankings)…
…The freshness or new content requirement of Google will definitely help you bring in an extra amount of traffic to your website.
Well, there are some tactics and creativities to exploit the nature of this Freshness Algorithm.
And if you apply the methods or make required changes to your website, you’ll be able to see the sought-after results.
So without further ado…
Let’s dive in.
What is Google Freshness?
Google Freshness is an algorithm or mathematical model by Google that analyzes search queries to determine how much fresh information it requires for the searcher intent.
The goal is to determine whether a particular keyword requires fresh information or not.
And if it finds a search query that requires fresh information, it’ll also determine how much fresh content that specific query needs.
Google calls the keywords that need fresh and newest information as “Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)”.
The ways Google identify a QDF topic is by monitoring social shares, tweets, and likes, blog posts, articles on magazine and news websites, etc. They also look into the search volume or behavior by the users on Google to find people’s sudden and recent interest.
As stated above, Google Freshness or QDF Algorithm uses a mathematical model to find the queries that deserve freshness…
…And the sites which provide fresh resources for the topics that deserve freshness win in the SEO battle and those who don’t provide lose in the battle.
WHY and WHEN Content Freshness is Needed?
Let’s begin with WHY you need it.
Some topics are time-sensitive. They change their facets as new information are added to them either by new research evidence (subjects related to Science, Marketing, Health, and Medicines, etc.) or by such events that take place periodically (Sports Events, Life of Celebrities, etc.).
So when one of the above two examples applies to a certain topic the older content gets stale or outdated (this is called “Content Decay”).
And in that scenario, if you don’t update your older content with new information it gets irrelevant and loses rankings either gradually (if the content is moderately time-sensitive) or immediately (if the content is extremely time-sensitive).
Now, let’s understand WHEN you need it.
At the time Google announced about Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) in its Webmasters blog back in 2011…
…Amit Singhal of Google classified QDF KEYWORDS into three distinct categories and one more category has been added by myself to make it complete.
- Recent Events or Hot Topics
- Regularly Recurring Events
- Frequent Updates
- Evergreen Content (added by me)
#1. Recent Events or Hot Topics
Some queries belong to topics that requires more recent information.
They could be the queries related to a pandemic like COVID-19…
And the queries could be like, “covid 19”, “covid 19 vaccine”, etc.
When I searched for the keyphrase “covid 19 vaccine”, I got the following results on Google.
At the time of writing this article, this topic is very recent and prevailing all over the world.
Here’s another example of a QDF keyword I searched for that comes under recent and trending topics.
I entered “James Kamala” into Google and it returned very fresh results as the WWE wrestler has just died yesterday. The topic is very recent and trending.
See how Google is smart enough to show the results of his death.
I haven’t included any keywords related to his death but Google quickly assumed that I want to know about his recent demise and probably don’t want to know about his other factoids.
This compels the online writers and news portals to frequently update their content.
#2. Regularly Recuring Events
Some keywords and topics belong to such things that happens on a recurring basis.
They could be like, general elections, annual conferences, trade shows, Olympics, and sports events like World Cups, etc.
The way Google handles queries related to events that are held periodically is by returning search results mostly related to the next event (or the current event if it already is being held).
Whenever you enter a keyword related to these types of topics they return a set of fresh results.
Here are the results Google returned for the query “icc cricket world cup”.
Google is showing Top Stories related “Women’s Cricket World Cup” at the top of the page because at the time of writing this article it was a recent topic because the next Women’s World Cup has just been postponed to 2022 (which was previously in 2021).
Google knows which thing you probably wanna know related to a specific head term and for this reason they showed articles about Women’s World Cup, not any information about when the first Cricket World Cup was held or anything older.
Here’s one another:
I searched for “Consumer Electronics Show (CES)” and Google returned a set of results with an “Answer Box” at the top of the page saying that the next event has been canceled.
However, returning fresh results for a query related to recurring events do not apply always.
If I Google search the keyphrase “indian general election”, they do not return any fresh results because the general election is already held…
…Hence there’s nothing to show fresh results in the SERP.
#3. Frequent Updates
The queries come under Frequent Updates are product reviews, best android smartphones, best in-ear headphones, etc. as these types of articles require frequent updates (because new products come at a rapid pace).
To give you an example, I searched on Google using the long-tail keyword “best in ear headphones” and they returned very fresh results.
Look at the following top three pages that are ranked for the above keyword.
See… the first result was updated 20 days ago.
The second result was updated 19 days ago.
And the third result was updated 3 months ago.
They are very recent, have been updated very frequently and providing value to the users to make a purchase decision.
Just as in the case above, this thing can be applied to any niche that changes quite frequently.
Likewise, if you have an SEO blog, the Frequent Updates will also be applicable to your blog.
#4. Evergreen Content
Some topics and queries either need rare updates or no updates at all.
The subject matters that fall into the spectrum of Evergreen Content are like, recipes, yoga articles, content related to spirituality, etc.
Generally, Google doesn’t take content freshness score into account for the queries that come under this segment.
Because these concepts are static in nature, hence their information doesn’t change with time.
Will the recipe or concoction of making a cup of instant coffee change with time?
Definitely not. If it changes, then it’ll take an another name. But the instant will remain instant.
This is what got for the query “Khichdi Recipe” (an Indian Dish):
Here’s another example:
Will the way of doing a yoga pose or a mythological story change with time?
Nope, it will never be.
And this is what Google returned results for the query “Cobra Pose Yoga”.
So updating an evergreen content is least possible until you add more information (which is not newly invented information) that you previously didn’t include.
How to Keep Your Blog Content Fresh for QDF Algorithm?
There are a few nifty ways to keep your blog content updated for Google Freshness.
Just follow the tactics below for an effective content modification.
- Rewrite the Introduction of your content. You can make it short, simple, and engaging if it previously wasn’t.
- You can Add New Screenshots and Images. Taking new screenshots is useful when you give instructions on a digital product or platform and their UI (User Interface) changes. For the images, you can add more engaging and meaningful ones. Adding GIF images with humor will also help (contextually relevant).
- Include Bullet Points to make the content more digestible. You can also convert your comma-separated items into a bulleted list.
- Rewrite or Add a New Section (paragraph, header, etc.) in your content. This thing especially applies when a substantial amount of information changes related to the topic of the page.
- Add More Internal and External Links. Internal links will help your visitors find more relevant information and will keep them more engaged also. On the other hand, you can add more external links to verify your claims or credibility.
But do always keep in mind that you are adding at least 100 new words into your existing post. Never add some garbage into your content that doesn’t convey extra value to the users.
Now the key part comes:
After updating your blog content you need to make sure the “Modification Date” has been added to the Front End of the page which is visible to the users.
As well as to the Back End of the page (not visible to the users).
On WordPress, you can do this with just the help of a plugin called WP Last Modified Info.
Go to Plugins>Add New, search for the plugin and then install and activate.
After activation, Go to Settings>WP Last Modified Info.
Under “Post Options” tab, check the box beside “Enable for Posts/Pages on Frontend”. This will start showing the Last Modified Date in each post of your website.
Next, you need to click on the “Schema” tab and select “Default Mode (Creative Work)” from the dropdown beside “JSON-LD Schema Markup Mode”.
However, if you are using an SEO plugin like Yoast or RankMath, you don’t need to enable this as the plugin is already doing this for you.
But still, if you only want to show Modified Date to Google, you can enable this feature (this setting only shows the Modified Date).
This setting especially helps if Google keeps showing the Published Date instead of the Modified Date in the SERPs.
SIDE NOTE: Apart from the “Create Mode” you can choose “Inline Mode” to show the Modified Date. This will add microdata to the HTML tag that holds the last modified date, like the following:
<time itemprop=”dateModified” datetime=”2020-07-18T10:22:30+00:00″>July 18, 2020</time>
Either way works, you can use one of them but “Creative Mode” is more recommended.
Can You Fake Published Date? [The Timestamp Exploitation]
Fresh and updated contents get a ranking boost in Google SERPs.
The improvement of rankings after refreshing the content is not only seen with dynamic topics that change frequently but also with evergreen content.
There are evidences around the web that making little changes or updating the modified date of an evergreen content gives positive results in terms of search rankings.
On a Moz blog post, Anthony D. Nelson shared a case study of one of his websites on which there is only evergreen content.
There he tested to see whether it’ll help to improve search rankings just by faking blog post modification dates.
He did this with 16 blog posts and all of them got massive ranking boost and as well as greater search traffic.
Many of his posts went from the middle of page 2 to the middle of page 1 for the keywords he was targeting.
For such target keywords some of his pages which were stuck at the #6 spot, went to the #2 spot.
And this is the traffic boost all of his 16 pages got just by faking the published date!
Better rankings and traffic just by faking the update date.
Although this experiment was done by Nelson back in 2015, it still works.
But should you this on your blog?
You can but I will not recommend it. It’s better to be on the safe side and instead…
…You should make minor changes (rewrite the Introduction) or make your content more engaging.
And then click the Publish button for risk free experience.
However, this technique will work when your rankings are between the top 10 to top 20. Otherwise, you may not get any positive results.
From Nelson’s experiment, it can be concluded that Google has a bias towards content freshness.
In spite of making QDF for the dynamic topics, it also seemingly work with static and evergreen content.
The possible reason is:
People tend to click on the fresher result just by looking at the timestamp when they search for a query…
…And hence Google prefers to give it a ranking boost (if the content is also of high quality).
May be or may not be.
It’ll be really hard to give a definitive proof about whether the fresher timestamp is a good feature in a snippet or whether Google prefers fresh results even for the evergreen contents.
Only Google knows. 🙂
Your website is an ever-evolving book.
So not inserting fresh information in your content is inevitable most of the time. And this way Google Freshness or QDF will definitely love your site.
But if your website’s niche is tilted towards the evergreen side…
…Adding more and more content to your website will make sense. And in that scenario, it will not be the content freshness, but only the Authority that you build on your site over time.
Did you update your outdated content on you blog?